Thursday, April 5, 2012

For Passing Time

As the title readily confesses, this post is a way of passing time. I'm waiting to meet a Sister-in-Christ, after which I'll meet an ex-best-friend-in-Christ for her amazing company over late lunch and a music critique. Rather than waiting passively I have seen it fit to foist a frivolous post upon my faithful followers. For which reason all will be forgiven who stop reading this post right now.

One clarification about my blog: I never intend to preach, but it's not my fault if the world we live in easily lends itself to sermons (I admit: I have a lot of "shouldness" and "oughtness"). Shoot me; I'm an idealist, and I also say it how I see it, so there.

Now, the story.

When I was a kid, we played energetic games in the hood with agemates. None of that indoors PlayStation business. Brick Game was the most advanced bit of tech in those days. But Brick Game was the exception: the main feature of child's play was the exertion of sweat and loud exuberant noisemaking. So we chased each other up and down, fought (and fought again to avenge losing the first fight), played soccer even in high noon, protected younger siblings from bullies, ran from the bullies ourselves after a mostly symbolic punch, climbed fences and ripped the seats of our pants, played marbles till the index finger was sore, ran alongside passing trains declaring "CHU-CHU-TRAAAAIN!!!" over and over again. For some reason or other, amidst all the excitement and rough falls on tarmac, a kid would lose a shoe.

(Alright. So the post is really about childhood reminisces.)

When a kid lost a shoe, it was trouble. He had to troop all over the estate, crying, bawling, his plenteous tears blurring his search efforts while his bare foot treaded hot tarmac. It was pitiful. His friends (it was always a boy - girls hardly ever lost a shoe, not even the tomboys) would help his search with the incessant reminder that he would be whooped at home if the shoe wasn't found. At the end of a fruitless search, during which some jerk-ass adult invariably told a kid "A dog got your shoe," the tiny tot went home crying shrilly in preparation for a sound beating.

One day the bully lost his shoe. He came along when we were particularly bored, and started messing with the tiniest of us. The bully's weapon of torture was a large brown cockroach he'd tied on the end of a string. Most chillingly, it was still alive, and it seemed to fly when he whirled it around his head. When the psychological reign of terror neared the "pissing in your pants" threshhold, I and others present started giving the bully earnest heartfelt sermons about bad manners. He laughed in scorn and popped the cockroach into his mouth. And then we his victims  ran screaming in all directions. I ran faster than them all and disappeared early, with my lil bro hot on my tail. We lost him.

Next we saw of the bully, he was missing one shoe, minus the cockroach also. Probably he swallowed it. But the shoe factor was oddly gratifying.

"Utachapwa, Utachapwa!!!" We sang victoriously and mercilessly at the now panicked, searching bully. He would be beaten at home by his mother. That's what mothers did to kids who lost a shoe back then. Our band of kids regrouped, following Bully around the neighborhood as he searched high and low, tormenting him with our repetitive and boisterous Utachapwa song. Some of us even danced with unfeigned glee, busting spontaneous moves to the tune of repeated "utacha-pwa!".

Eventually, Bully gave up on the search for the "golden shoe;" his salvation from a sure beating had proved elusive.

So he turned on us. A different idea had entered is head. He couldn't find his shoe, so, he figured, everybody would have to lose their shoes. (I'll skip the part about how he obtained all our shoes without a real fight. It involved a brief chase and a futile scramble in a dead end ally.)

Let's just say that day nearly all of us were beaten by our mothers. There were many tears but I can laugh now, especially recalling that my mother simply flat-out REFUSED to swallow the line that a bully took my shoe and threw it to the dogs to eat. My lies, according to her, were growing more desperate by the day.

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